49ers

Saints anticipate top pick Rankins to debut vs 49ers

Saints anticipate top pick Rankins to debut vs 49ers

METAIRIE, La. — Saints coach Sean Payton sounds optimistic that defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins will make his NFL debut in San Francisco this Sunday.

Rankins, selected 12th overall out of Louisville and New Orleans' top draft choice last spring, fractured his fibula during training camp in August and began the season on injured reserve. Rankins began practicing two weeks ago and is now eligible to play.

Payton, who spoke with reporters by conference call Thursday, says the Saints "anticipate" that happening this week.

[MAIOCCO: 49ers LB Brooks to apply lesson learned from facing Brees]

The Saints' defense could use help. The unit ranks 28th in the NFL, allowing 397.4 yards per game, and 31st in points allowed at 30.7 per game.

In his last two seasons at Louisville, Rankins registered 14 sacks and 26 ½ tackles for losses.

Nick Mullens earns more respect from Kyle Shanahan, remains 49ers' QB

Nick Mullens earns more respect from Kyle Shanahan, remains 49ers' QB

SANTA CLARA -- 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan came out of Monday’s game believing Nick Mullens took a step forward in his development, so he'll remain the team's starting quarterback.

Mullens' stat line wasn't nearly as impressive as in his Week 9 debut against the Raiders, but his performance in the 49ers’ 27-23 loss to the New York Giants went beyond the stat line.

“Nick Mullens is our starter until I say different,” Shanahan said Tuesday.

Mullens completed 27 of 39 passes for 250 yards and one touchdown with two interceptions for a 73.7 passer rating. His TD was an 11-yard pass to Matt Breida, who was the last option in Mullens’ progression.

“What I liked about Nick is that he never seemed rattled throughout the whole game, continued playing,” Shanahan said. “He was great after the game, and he was great just watching the film with him.”

Shanahan gave Mullens an earful Monday night because of what he believed at the time was an lost opportunity for a big play against the Giants. Shanahan ended up with even more respect for Mullens after taking a closer look at the play Tuesday.

“There was one that I thought live he should’ve gotten to a deeper guy from my view on the sidelines,” Shanahan said. “I got on him for it because I wanted a bigger pass. I thought he was there, and it was open.

“He sits there, listens and takes it. When I watched the film, if he would've gone for what I wanted, I think it would've been a sack. And it would've been second-and-15. So that stuff, I like.”

[RELATED: 49ers report card for offense, defense in loss]

Through two games, Mullens has yet to be sacked while attempting 61 passes. Jimmy Garoppolo was sacked 13 times in 89 pass attempts this season, and C.J. Beathard was dropped 18 times in 169 pass attempts.

“He’s got a feel for that in the pocket,” Shanahan said of Mullens. “I always want to be aggressive and go down the field and get bigger plays, but not at the expense of risking a sack. I think he’s done a good job with that.”

49ers snap count: Ahkello Witherspoon actually played well, analytics show

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49ers snap count: Ahkello Witherspoon actually played well, analytics show

Ahkello Witherspoon was involved in a couple of notable plays in the 49ers’ 27-23 loss to the New York Giants on Monday night. But the cornerback was deemed to have an exceptionally good game in coverage, according to Pro Football Focus.

Witherspoon was targeted five times, surrendering only one catch for 11 yards, according to PFF. Moreover, Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham didn't catch any of the three passes thrown his way while Witherspoon was in coverage against him.

Witherspoon was called for a debatable 16-yard pass-interference penalty on a play in which Beckham didn't even look back for the ball before Eli Manning’s pass arrived. But Witherspoon didn't look back, either. The play was significant, as it came on the Giants' game-winning drive.

Afterward, Witherspoon was asked if he disagreed with the call.

"I did, but I also disagree with me not turning my head because I could’ve had an opportunity for an interception on that play,” he said.

Witherspoon was in a trail position on Beckham’s 20-yard touchdown catch in the third quarter. Witherspoon was supposed to have safety help over the top on the play. PFF didn't assign blame to Witherspoon, who let his frustration show after the play.

Here are other notable metrics out of Monday’s game from PFF:

-- Cornerback Richard Sherman was targeted four times and gave up just two catches for 10 yards. He stopped running back Saquon Barkley for a 3-yard loss after a pass completion.

-- The 49ers missed just two tackles all game.

-- Running back Matt Breida graded out as the 49ers’ top offensive player. He gained 101 rushing yards, 65 of which came after contact.

-- Left guard Laken Tomlinson did not allow a QB pressure. Right guard Mike Person allowed only one hurry in 43 pass-blocking snaps.

-- Quarterback Nick Mullens completed just 3 of 9 passes for 12 yards while under pressure. When under duress, he threw an interception and had a passer rating of 3.2.

-- Giants quarterback Eli Manning was under pressure on just seven of his 32 dropbacks.

-- Defensive end Arik Armstead was the 49ers’ top-graded defender. He had two pressures and two run stops while playing 31 snaps.

-- No 49ers player had more than two quarterback pressures. Armstead, Cassius Marsh and DeForest Buckner had two pressures apiece.

-- Linebacker Fred Warner had three run stops and two pass breakups. While in coverage, Warner allowed five receptions on eight targets for 37 yards.

Here are the total numbers of snaps of every 49ers player who saw action:

Offense

Total offensive snaps: 73
Quarterback -- Nick Mullens 73
Running back -- Kyle Juszczyk 46, Matt Breida 44, Alfred Morris 14, Matthew Dayes 1
Wide receiver -- Kendrick Bourne 69, Marquise Goodwin 61, Dante Pettis 41, Trent Taylor 7, Richie James 5
Tight end -- George Kittle 71, Garrett Celek 6
Offensive line -- Laken Tomlinson 73, Mike McGlinchey 73, Mike Person 73, Joe Staley 73, Weston Richburg 73

Defense

Total defensive snaps: 59
Defensive line -- DeForest Buckner 48, Arik Armstead 31, Solomon Thomas 30, Cassius Marsh 28, Earl Mitchell 22, Sheldon Day 22, Ronald Blair 21, Dekoda Watson 19, D.J. Jones 12
Linebacker -- Fred Warner 59, Malcolm Smith 59, Mark Nzeocha 26
Defensive back -- Antone Exum 59, Jimmie Ward 59, Ahkello Witherspoon 59, Richard Sherman 59, K’Waun Williams 31, D.J. Reed 5

Special teams

Total special teams plays: 30
Tarvarius Moore 25, Nzeocha 24, Elijah Lee 23, Watson 21, Marcell Harris 18, Greg Mabin 16, James 15, Bradley Pinion 13, Exum 13, Marsh 13, Dayes 12, Buckner 12, Ross Dwelley 11, Reed 11, Ward 10, Celek 9, Kyle Nelson 8, Armstead 8, Witherspoon 7, Robbie Gould 6, Jones 6, Garry Gilliam 5, Joshua Garnett 5, Staley 5, Tomlinson 5, McGlinchey 5, Thomas 5, Blair 5, Mitchell 4, Juszczyk 3, Warner 3, Smith 2, Pettis 1, Williams 1